As the three-week window for the innovative Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge opened this past weekend, it was the enduro stars who basked in the limelight and scorching hot weather conditions in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.
With the original event in May cancelled during the hard lockdown, the reshaped event now allows riders and runners to race on the fabled Karkloof trails over a three week window period, but with special dispensation being given to the elite athletes keen to challenge for the prized Karkloof titles, and the good prize money on offer.
The event organisers created two opportunities for the marathoners to race the tough 60km layout but with the Illovo Eston MTB event on Sunday occupying their local MTB elites’ attention, the stage was left clear for the enduro community to steal the limelight.
Defending Sappi Karkloof Classic champion Keira Duncan made the most of his knowledge of his local trails to post the fastest combined time over the five timed stages to edge out Underberg athlete Andrew Houston and Matthew Green, with junior star Beanie Thies posting the top women’s time ahead of XCO specialist Bianca Haw.
“We battled it out in the heat,” said Duncan. “At one stage the temperature was 38 degrees! I managed to catch a swim at the Karkloof Falls to cool down, which was a bonus.”
“I was able to manage myself over the two hours and 35 kilometers without dehydrating. I am looking forward to being able to re-run it again in two weeks’ time, as it was a really great weekend.
“It is pretty cool that the format allows us to give it another bash and hopefully improve our times,” said Duncan.
Omar Wilson provided arguably the result of the day as the sub-junior raced to an impressive fifth place overall.
“He is a really talented up-and-coming rider and managed to bump Cam Morewood into second place in the junior competition. There is a very exciting bunch of young emerging enduro riders from this area coming through the ranks, which is exciting for the future,” said Duncan.
The elite enduro results were notably close, making the second opportunity to ride the descents on 7 November an attractive proposition for the riders jostling for places on the various podiums.
Many mountain biking and trail running enthusiasts took advantage of the warm weather and the first day of the three-week window of the innovative festival format to ride the 60km, 40km and 20km MTB options or the 21km and 10km trail running routes, while adhering to the required lockdown protocols.
The festival allows riders and runners to use any day of the 22 day window to register and use the trails, and then upload their GPS log of the ride or run to the ROAG website if they want to be included in the final results.
The Karkloof Country Club, which boasts a number of innovations and improvements since last year’s Sappi Karkloof Classic, provided a platform for the Karkloof hospitality for the many individuals and families that took advantage of the opening weekend of the festival.
The elite MTB Marathon stars will converge on the iconic 60km Karkloof route on the final weekend of the festival window to decide the holders of the prized titles for 2020, and the points towards to Quattro ROAG Series powered by Momentum.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1. Keira Duncan 11:17
2. Andrew Houston 11:51
3. Matthew Green 11:58
4. Patrick Morewood 12:04
5. Omar Wilson 12:08 (Sub Junior)
6. Ian Perry 12:32
7. Stuart Waterworth 12:42
8. Cameron Morewood 12:49 (Sub Junior)
9. Lorenzo Lotz 13:01
10. Mackinley Daly 13:02 (Junior)
1. Sabine Thies 14:13 (Junior)
2. Bianca Haw 14:59
The Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge
Starts Saturday 24 October and ends on Sunday 15 November
MTB Routes : 60 (R150), 40km (R120), 20km (R100) and Enduro (R250)
Trail Running: 10 (R100), 21km (R120)
Enter through www.roag.co.za or by electronic payment scanned at the Karkloof Club on the day.
Times uploaded at www.roag.co.za
More info can be found at https://www.karkloofclub.co.
Photo: Defending Sappi Karkloof Challenge enduro champion Keira Duncan posted the fastest combined time on the first weekend of the Sappi Karkloof Classic Challenge. (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)